The NFL offseason has begun, which means it is also draft season. Despite Hockey and Basketball being in mid-season, and Baseball only a little over a month away, the topic of most sports shows is going to be the draft.
Two of the biggest names in this years draft are Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, and Florida State QB Jameis Winston. Both had impressive college careers, though that does not always mean they will be good in the NFL. Both are likely to be off the board in the top 10, but are they worth it? Lets take a look at both of them, and see what the teams that select them will be getting.
Jameis Winston spent only twos as a starter in College, yet he went through a bigger roller coaster than most college QB’s ever do. In his first year as a starter, he was on cloud nine. He looked like the next big thing, throwing 40 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions. He won the Heisman, and led Florida State to a championship win over Auburn. Like many prospects after their first year, he seemed untouchable, but that changed quickly. He had a levy of legal issues during his first offseason. First there was an investigation into an accusation of rape against him. The charges didn’t go anywhere, but many questioned the police’s investigation, and wondered if they looked into it enough. He was also caught trying to steal crab legs from a supermarket.
In his next year, his game didn’t look as polished as it had the year before. Despite attempted more passes, he had less passing yards and less touchdowns. He also had more interceptions, and his QBR and QB rating dropped sharply. He seemed to be forcing more passes than he had before, Maybe the off the field issues were distracting him, maybe he was suffering because he no longer had Kelvin Benjamin to throw to. Whatever the reason was, his second year was not nearly as impressive as his first.
His team started to fall behind early in games. Though to his credit, they always came back to win the game, and finished the regular season undefeated. They would end up being blown out by Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Winston wasn’t terrible in the game, but he wasn’t good either. One touchdown, one interception, and little under 8 yards per completion.
Overall Winston had an average season, coupled along with the off the field issues, its making him a very risky prospect.
His toolset is still impressive though. He has a strong arm, as well as the size to stand up strong in the pocket. While he isn’t mariota and will not scramble, he has the athleticism to move out of the pocket if he has to. When his decision making is sound, he can zip it all over the field. One concern in his throwing motion though is the lack of a quick release, and the tendency to hold onto the ball longer than he has to. He tends to wind up when he throws, which will be an issue at the next level.
Verdict- Winston is not going to be a superstar in the NFL. He has the talent to be a starter if he can mature off the field, but even then even skill wise he isn’t polished. Its never a promising sign when a player takes a step back like Winston did. I don’t think he will ever fully mature to the point of the type of leader most teams want in their QB. To his credit, he doesn’t lack passion for the game. He may have off the field issues, but when does seem to genuinely enjoy the game, which is a plus. He will probably have issues with interceptions in the NFL, because he already makes poor decisions, and those tend to be amplified in the NFL. He skillset will keep him in the NFL, but his shortcomings, not only off the field, but on the field, will keep him from being the franchise star teams are looking for. With that said, he should be a solid starter, but do teams want to put up with his off the field issues if they are not getting a super star?
Mariota has never had issues with his maturity. Anyone who meets him comes off thinking he is a genuinely nice guy. In fact people are already saying he has been one of the most impressive prospects in a while at the interview stage of the combine.
He may be one of the best athletes at the position. His ability to scramble will keep defenses in check. He has impressive straight line speed, making him a big play threat on the ground. He showed deadly accuracy and a strong arm in college.
His stats are also impressive. In his three years as starter his QBR was never below 160. He accumulated over 10 thousand yards, over 100 td’s, with only 14 interceptions. if someone were to judge him by the stats alone, they would have a hard time finding something wrong.
Problem is, stats don’t tell the full story. One issue with Mariota is that in the system he plays in, the receivers are open more often than not. While you can’t blame Mariota for that, it is still a valid concern. Receivers won’t be open that much in the NFL. Even in a similar system, like what the Eagles run, the wide receivers still weren’t open as much and as often as they were at Oregon. Will he be able to thread the needle consistently in the NFL? We do not know, and again while its not Mariota’s fault, its something scouts have to take into consideration.
There are also concerns about if he will be able to perform in the redzone. In the Championship game Oregon made four trips to the red zone, and only scored a touchdown in one of them. The spread offense doesn’t work as well in the red zone, because there just isn’t enough space. here is where Mariota showed his struggles to change up his game. We have seen the spread can work in the NFL with the eagles these last two years, but we also saw through them it still wont work in the redzone. He will have to be able to play in non spread formations if he is going to be the superstar QB teams are looking for,
Again, this could be an issue with the system, it could be an issue be an issue with his game. We won’t know for sure until he steps onto an NFL field. Question marks like this come up all the time with non pro style qb’s. He admittedly has a lack of experience working in the huddle. So if he goes to a team that huddles before every play, like almost all the teams in the NFL do, he will have to learn how to call out plays on the fly.
Another concern with Mariota is his size. He is tall, but he doesn’t have much bulk. Size in always a concern with QB’s. especially mobile ones because the less bulk they have the easier it will be for them to get knocked around and hurt. It is the issue we have seen with Robert griffin in Washington. His size is by no means a guarantee he will get hurt, but it is another question mark to put down in his scouting report.
Verdict- Honestly, it is hard to say what will become of Mariota. With Winston he has very clear issues, so it is a little easier to project his career. With Mariota though, it is all question marks. We don’t know how his game will translate to this level. He has all the abillity to be a great qb, but he also has yet to prove he can do all the things a NFL QB needs to do. I would say he will end up like San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick. A QB with the ability to dominate on any given day, but is also inconsistent. He will be better in some systems than others. Many connect him to the Eagles, since his former coach Chip Kelly is there and runs the same system as Oregon. While that would be a good fit, they are picking at 20, and moving up would be a large task for them. If he lands on a decent team though, he will, like Winston, be at least a solid starter. He has more upside than Winston, but also more downside.